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Tag Archives: Hacks

GE Engineers Hack One Of Their Own Motion Sensors To Monitor Breathing And Heart Rates

Motion Detector (Image courtesy Medgadget)
By Andrew Liszewski

Most research and development facilities start from the ground up when it comes to designing new technology, but engineers at General Electric’s Global Research development arm have done just the opposite. They transformed one of the company’s existing home security motion sensors into a device that’s smart enough to classify different types of motion, even to the point of wirelessly monitoring a person’s breathing and heart rate.

The upgrades to the motion detector mostly came in the form of sophisticated processing algorithms that allow the sensor’s ‘brain’ to better process a person’s movement. Possible applications for the improved motion sensors include monitoring patients or the elderly at home as well as neonatal infant health monitoring since premature babies often have skin that’s too fragile to physically attach sensors to.

[ PR – GE Scientists Create Wireless Medical Sensing Platform ] VIA [ Medgadget ]

DTV Converter Box Battery Hack Means My Sony Watchman Is No Longer Obsolete

Digital TV Converter Hack (Image courtesy Kipkay via Instructables)
By Andrew Liszewski

Like any technophile, I was quite excited for the DTV transition to finally hit the U.S. I mean free digital and HD signals over the air? What downside could there possibly be? I was on cloud nine, until I realized that my beloved Sony Watchman, the first gadget I ever skimped and saved for, would become useless once the analog broadcasts stopped transmitting.

Sony Watchman (Image property of OhGizmo!)

And unfortunately, all of the DTV converter boxes currently on the market are AC powered, which totally negates the ‘portable’ aspect of a portable TV. But over on Instructables, Kipkay has posted a tutorial on how to hack one of those converter boxes to run on battery power. Besides making your portable TV portable again, the hack is also useful for camping or in the event of emergencies when there’s no power and you have to rely on a portable set. Now if I could just find a way to splice the signal from a DTV converter box into my Watchman, I’d be all set.

And if you’re curious, after the jump I’ve included a few more glamor shots of my Watchman that I had sitting on my drive.

[ Instructables – Digital TV Converter Hack ] VIA [ TechEBlog ]

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Super Mario For Your TI Graphing Calculator

Super Mario Bros. On Your Graphing Calculator (Image courtesy hmhross via YouTube)
By Andrew Liszewski

And speaking of calculators, what better way is there to take advantage of that powerful graphing calculator you bought for university than by installing Bill Nagel’s custom Super Mario game. It’s not a port of any of the actual Super Mario games from Nintendo, but a recreation that includes 13 unique enemies, 64 unique background tiles, fast scrolling, power-ups like a growth mushroom and fire flowers and even a “somewhat-challenging” boss.

The game can be downloaded from, and if you need instructions on how to install it on your own calculator head on over to Brown-Eyed Albino’s Blog for a brief write-up and a link to a YouTube video.

[ – Super Mario v1.2 ] VIA [ MAKE: Blog ]

Modded Nerf Vulcan Hits 500 DPS, Is Best Thing Ever

By Evan Ackerman

Remember the Nerf Vulcan? Of course you do. It’s the belt-fed, fully automatic chain gun that just happens to fire squishy little Nerf darts instead of something more, uh, significant. And it’s only $40, which means that you can definitely afford one. The only downside is the somewhat lackluster 3 darts per second performance. Not so hot.

Some guys from were unimpressed, and decided to perform a little unauthorized modification. With the addition of a 9.6 volt power source, they managed to bump the rate of fire up to something comparable to an actual M60 machine gun, at 500 (!) darts per minute. They also added an LCD shot counter and gave it a sweet paint job. The cost of the modifications (which are not at all complicated) was about $80, although you’re highly likely to melt the motor and gears of your Vulcan if you do it. Totally worth it, obviously.

[ ManaPotions ] VIA [ Gizmodo ]

iPhone Doom With TV-Out Functionality

iPhone Doom With TV-Out (Image courtesy Steven Troughton-Smith)
By Andrew Liszewski

Over on Ars Technica’s Infinite Loop, Erica Sadun has a post about developer Steven Troughton-Smith who updated his port of Doom to use the iPhone’s undocumented TV-out functionality. As you can see in the photo, the iPhone itself is then used as a touch-based controller for the game, with large, easy to locate buttons. Very cool. And as for why he decided to hook it up to a monochrome Apple II monitor for this photo; “this is what passes for ‘fun’ around me.” Fair enough.

At this point Steven has no plans for adding the TV-out feature to his public build of Doom, but Erica has provided the necessary steps for you to do it yourself since the Doom source is available as an open source Google Code repository. You just need to be a registered iPhone developer, and of course know how to program.

[ Ars Technica – iPhone Doom with TV-out: Try it yourself ] VIA [ MAKE: Blog ]

DIY Wearable Toy Piano Shirt

Wearable Toy Piano (Images courtesy Instructables - mikamika)
By Andrew Liszewski

They say the best gifts you can give at Christmas are the ones you make yourself, but from my own experiences, that probably only applies to people who work in factories that produce cellphones or HDTVs. However, even if there’s someone on your list who’s a techno-snob, I think they’ll appreciate getting something like this DIY Wearable Toy Piano shirt. It was designed by Instructables author ‘mikamika’ who actually created it for the diy* Festival that was held in Zurich this past weekend.

Not surprisingly, most of the electronic components are scavenged from a kid’s toy piano, but the shirt also features conductive fabrics and threads so that the keys end up all over the place, which makes playing it more fun I guess. What I like most is that the shirt ends up looking pretty slick, with the various components being arranged in a rather pleasing design. I’ve included a YouTube video of the shirt actually being worn and played after the jump, and the only suggestion I have for improving it is to maybe use a louder speaker.

[ Instructables – Wearable Toy Piano ] VIA [ Fashioning Technology ]

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Video Friday: SteadiChicken

By Evan Ackerman

In order to get smooth and stable video, the pros use several thousand dollar Steadicams. After watching this video, I think a chicken might be more effective. While Steadicams rely on high inertial mass to keep them from jiggling around, the chicken possesses superior technology in the form of a gyroscope (probably its inner ear) and compensating motors (the muscles in its neck). It’s able to instantaneously compensate for any movements of its body to keep its head just about perfectly stable. So all you really need to vastly improve your spastic videography is a willing chicken, a little helmet with a camera mount, and something to keep the chicken looking where you want it to look. Something like, I dunno, a girl chicken in a bikini or something. Brilliant.

VIA [ Gizmodo ]

Game Boy Color Crammed Inside A TI-83 Calculator

TI-84 & Game Boy Color (Images courtesy Mark Bowers)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’m going to file this one under ‘things I wish I’d thought of when I was in high school.’ I can’t tell you how often I relied on a graphing calculator to get me through a boring class, whether it was high school french, or even university-level script writing. But Mark Bowers has taken things one step further by sticking an old Game Boy Color into a broken Texas Instruments TI-83 calculator. (Even though that’s actually a TI-84 in the photo.)

What’s particularly cool is that he actually mapped the TI-83’s 4-way directional pad and various other keys to the directional pad and A, B, Start & Select buttons on the Game Boy Color. While the screen on the final product suffers from a bit of letterboxing on the sides because of the smaller GB display, and the underside features an unfortunate bulge because of the batteries, from the top I doubt of any of Mark’s teachers would discover his clever ruse.

[ – GameBoy Color inside a TI-83 series calculator ] VIA [ MAKE: Blog ]

Caps Lock Key Trainer Key HAS GIGANTIC SPIKES (ow)

By Evan Ackerman

Kids, listen closely: just because you’ve mashed the caps lock key down when typing something on the internet doesn’t mean that your comments have any more relevance, or that anyone is more likely to pay attention to you. It’s just really, really, REALLY ANNOYING.


If you can’t help yourself, here’s a gentle suggestion: bolt a couple fourteen-gauge 10mm lebret spikes onto the caps lock key, and see how long it takes for you to cure yourself of your affliction. Not recommended for laptops.

[ Sean Michael Ragan ] VIA [ MAKE ]